The city of Rocklin is trying to work out a deal with nonprofit groups concerned over a policy change that would charge scouting groups and other nonprofits for use of city buildings for meetings. Groups are concerned they could be charged $90 per hour for building use.
Boy Scout Troop 29 has been meeting in the Community Center at Johnson-Springview Park since it was constructed in 1976.
“It has always been this troop or pack has gone to the city and asked them if we can use the building for free and they always said yes,” said Troop 29 Scoutmaster Jeff Sherer.
The city formed an ad hoc committee after a crowd of upset scouts and their parents packed a November City Council meeting. The controversy got a lot of media attention, as the Placer Herald was joined by three Sacramento television stations in covering the story.
According to City Manager Rick Horst, the city has granted what he describes as a “stay” from the proposed April 1, 2013, start of the fees to work something out. In a meeting two weeks ago that was not open to the public, Horst laid out his issues with members of local nonprofits.
Horst said the meeting was productive, but declined to get into specifics about the plan until it becomes more finalized. Council Member George Magnuson gave a report at the Dec. 11 City Council meeting and said the council has a responsibility.
“It was a very interesting meeting,” Magnuson reported. “We have to make sure we’re equitable, but we don’t lose money on stuff, too. That’s part of our jobs is to be stewards for the public trust.”
Victor Tulbure, president of the Lions Club, which sponsors Troop 29, was not happy with the outcome of the meeting and said Horst was “bellicose and maintained a bully posture” during the meeting.
“He asserted that the Community Center represents a negative cash flow for the city of Rocklin, and that if it could not at least generate enough income to cover expenses, the city has only two choices: either convert the building to leasable office space, or the building would need to be razed and thereby eliminate the problem once and for all,” Tulbure said in an email to supporters.
Horst said that that’s not accurate, and Rocklin Public Affairs and Economic Growth Manager Karen Garner said it is not simply a capacity issue.
“Other considerations include financial and equity issues,” she said. “We are fortunate to have many wonderful nonprofit and community organizations that do great things to benefit our community. Some have received fee waivers, some have not, and others don’t use city facilities. They may use church or private facilities. Regarding financial considerations, the city collects fees for facility use to cover items including utilities, insurance and maintenance long-term and short-term.”
City staff is going through a review of MOUs citywide.
Tulbure said Horst suggested that if Troop 29 sponsor, the Rocklin Lions, is not able to financially pay the bills and secure the Community Center for the troop’s regular weekly meetings, that is was possibly time to find a different sponsor.
Sherer said he stands by the Lions, who also meet in the Community Center. Sherer, who maintains a petition drive online of nearly 500 signatures, toned down criticism of the city in an effort to work out a deal.
“What’s changed is it is evident that the city wants to work with us,” he said. “The city wants to do what it can.”
Sherer said Horst offered the scouts a modular building currently used for senior recreation programs. Sherer would still have to pay about $25 an hour. That’s better than the $5,000 to $15,000 originally estimated to cost the organization for a year of meetings at the current rental rate. Even so, Sherer said, it’s still too much.
“He wants to charge everyone the same, so that’s where the rate is,” he said. “The one thought is could the scouts do a service project to work off that $25? Could we plant some trees or something?”
Another problem is his Cub Scout pack has 67 registered boys and their parents who wouldn’t fit in the small building, he added.
“We got the public’s attention and we’ve got offers from groups offering us space,” Sherer said. “We’re looking at that.”
Representatives from the Girl Scouts who attended the meeting could not be reached for comment.
Garner indicated veterans from the local VFW who meet at the community center will be exempt from the new proposal, as the veterans group built the community center facility.
The groups are to meet with city officials again next month. The recommendations of the committee are expected to be presented to the Rocklin City Council early next year.